Thanksgiving with the Essex Foxhounds

By Nancy Jaffer
November 24, 2016

Note: Click here to read the column posted earlier this month about the 2020 Olympics and the FEI meeting.

It’s a Thanksgiving tradition in New Jersey’s Somerset Hills–going to the Essex Foxhounds meet before sitting down at home to turkey and the trimmings. The occasion gained popularity in the days when Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was a member of Essex, and people came out to watch her ride, when she was often accompanied by her daughter, Caroline, and son, John.

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Essex Joint Master Karen Murphy greets the crowd. (Photo by Lawrence J. Nagy)

Despite the fact that she died more than two decades ago, people still arrive on Thanksgiving to see the hunt. This year, hundreds arrived at the Ellistan estate, which has all the charm and grandeur of an English manor house. They often have a little tailgate brunch while waiting for the riders and hounds to assemble.

Eager children reach out to pet the horses and the joyful foxhounds have their own meet-and-greet, being particularly drawn to the kids.

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Foxhounds love attention and children. (Photo by Lawrence J. Nagy)

All the horses are impeccably turned out, beautifully groomed and braided. The whole scene is reminiscent of a Currier & Ives print, and it’s fun to be a part of it.

Members of the crowd were treated to a stirrup cup, just as those riding in the hunt had a hot chocolate or something stronger to fortify them for the ride.

The field this year was quite big. Everyone wants to be in on the occasion, though they tend to drop out along the way. There are long gallops across beautiful fields, framed by lovely barns and houses.

It does require a fit horse and rider to continue to the end; this time, a few more than a dozen were still on hand when huntsman Bart Poole signaled that it was time to take the hounds back to the kennel.

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People who come out to see the hunt love to meet the horses. (Photo by Lawrence J. Nagy)
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Essex Joint Master Jazz Merton salutes Mr. and Mrs. Hank Slack for opening their property to the hunt and all the people who turn out to see it. (Photo by Nancy Jaffer)
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Jazz Merton takes a fence. (Photo by Lawrence J. Nagy)
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Veterinarian Brendan Furlong was among those who came out for the meet. (Photo by Lawrence J. Nagy)
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Essex Horse Trials organizer Ralph Jones. (Photo by Nancy Jaffer)
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There’s no danger of violating the speed limit on the way back to the kennels. (Photo by Nancy Jaffer)
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